Phil Salt is set to get first shot at replacing Ben Stokes in England’s one-day side, slotting in behind an opening partnership that changed the way he played the game.
Stokes’ retirement from the 50-over format leaves a huge hole in the team, and one that no rookie could possibly hope to fill given his all-round abilities and on-field aura.
But his departure, so soon after that of World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan, does open up opportunities for fresh blood in a side that was once viewed as one of the hardest to break into in all sport.
Salt is in pole position to step in against South Africa on Friday, a must-win clash at his home ground of Old Trafford, and is eager to prove himself worthy of the chance.
“We’ve lost a couple of leaders in the dressing room, Stokesy the other day and Morgs retiring, and it does have an impact. But we have to keep moving forward,” said Salt.
“We have all the leaders and senior players in the dressing room we need. And it’s an opportunity for people such as myself, lads that have been around it and played bits and pieces but not had a solid run.
“I love playing at Old Trafford and, to be quite honest, I’ve just got to take this opportunity now with both hands. I’ve been on the fringes for a while and I want to get in there and show people what I can do.”
The 25-year-old made his ODI debut under Stokes’ captaincy last summer, in a scratch squad put together at the last minute following a COVID outbreak.
He returned to the fold for the recent trip to the Netherlands and gave a strong account of himself in Australian Matthew Mott’s first series as head coach.
Salt, who played for Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash, hit a maiden international century, 122 in 93 balls, followed by scores of 77 and 49 as he deputised for Jonny Bairstow.
Bairstow, who was busy putting together the form of his life in the Test arena, is now back in place and knocked up a record 14th hundred stand with Jason Roy in a losing cause at Chester-le-Street last time out.
Salt would prefer to kick things off at the head of the innings but, as someone who was inspired by the way Bairstow and Roy redefined the role in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup, he accepts a middle-order role awaits.
“I think I’m slotting in wherever the opportunity comes because that is the best opening partnership in 50-over cricket,” he said.
“There’s no doubt about that. Look at the numbers, the way they play and the way they’ve changed how the game is played.
“There’s a lot of people in international cricket that want to copy them and follow how they play.
“In my opinion, they’ve set the bar for a good few years now. They set the template for how you want to play if you’re going to play for England, it’s as simple as that.”